September – An Unwelcome Home

We took a week of vacation and although we missed the farm and our furry and feathered friends and my gardens – sometimes you just need to get away. It was nice to come home – until we found we had squatters living in our house. Yes, they broke in while we were gone and took up residence. Yellow jackets had taken over our bedroom. Not just one or two – but a lot of dead ones on the window sills where they died in frustration trying to get out the windows, and several more flying frantically around looking for a way out. We do sometimes get the errant wasp that seems to come down from the attic, but I couldn’t figure out how this many yellow jackets were getting into the house. The next day there were more, and the day after – still more.  We checked the windows – the screens all seemed tight. We checked the attic for a lot of buzzing – but it was quiet. I sat quietly and watched the fan vent in the bathroom waiting for a yellow jacket to make it’s entrance – but nothing happened. And then we went to bed. Just as I was dozing off – I got stung, THREE times – on my leg – under the covers. And it HURT!

It was WAR!

In the light of the day I started ripping apart the bedroom – and then I noticed – saw dust, and dead yellow jackets on the roof of the porch – just to the left of  the window on my side of the bed. They definitely had a nest – but we have a stone house. Doesn’t one trump the other? You would think!

These nasty yellow jackets had burrowed into the wooden window sill, through two feet of wood and stone, and made an entrance into the bedroom behind my night stand. I put my ear against the window sill – and it was a-buzzin’!! After several doses of bug spray applied with one of those tiny wands into the entrance holes both in the bedroom and outside the window, all is quiet. Chris shoved some steel wool into the holes so there will be no more yellow jacket traffic in and out of our bedroom.

As for the pictures – when we were in the throes of trying to get rid of these things – I forgot to take pictures. I could show you a picture of my leg with a huge, red welt – but that’s not a good picture either.

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The roof of the porch littered with sawdust, dead bees and a chunk of wood the yellow jackets somehow pulled out of the window ledge.
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The little hole under the window sill where they were making their entrance into the house after eating their way through two feet of wooden window ledge and stone wall. It’s plugged with steel wool. We need to spray a big dose of Great Stuff in there to seal everything up and then patch the hole with some stucco and fresh paint. At least I sleep better now!

 

September – A Sweet Surprise

We’ve had bees for three years now. The first year – we got nothing, the second year – we got next to nothing (6 pounds of honey), the third year – we thought we got nothing. The beekeepers association said that if you don’t have honey by the end of July – you aren’t getting any, so pack up your hopes and dreams and wait another year. But… our bees are just late bloomers. They waited until mid August and in the span of about two weeks brought home nearly 70 pounds of dark, sweet honey.

We had used the extracting equipment last year – hardly worth the effort, but I guess it was a good “dry run” to process the amazing 6 pounds of honey. This year, we at least had a process in place and set to work early in the morning. Several hours later – we have CASES of the stuff. In fact, I need to go buy more honey jars! I guess that’s a good problem to have.

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We had three shallow supers of frames to extract.
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And they were packed to the corners with honey.
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I got stung by a yellow jacket earlier in the week so I was taking NO chances. I don’t mind helping but those few bees that came in with the frames of honey weren’t going to get to me!
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Straining the honey from the extractor to a bucket. We ended up with a full five gallon bucket plus a little more!
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The “fruits” of Chris’s persistence. He took classes, kept doing everything he was supposed to do – and here we are – with nearly six CASES of honey.

September – Our Labor Day Picnic

It’s hard to believe that summer is winding down already. It’s been hot and/or rainy all summer which meant every time I thought we’d eat outside on the patio, it was too hot, too wet or both. But the weather has changed already. Days are shorter, there’s a cool breeze and this weekend was one of the rare opportunities to eat dinner outside. Not just for us – but for “the herd” too.  Happy Labor Day!

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A pet picnic – they do need better table manners though.
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Our picnic – the weather is finally cooperating.

August – Paint and Rain Don’t Mix

We use our basement a lot. It’s not a typical basement. I can’t just go down the basement stairs into a nice, finished space. Instead I have to go outside, to the side of the house and unlock the exterior door that accesses the basement. It’s a bit dreary. It sometimes gets mice in the winter, and it definitely gets cobwebs and other creepy-crawly things.

But it stays fairly constant around 60-ish degrees which makes it a great choice for being my root cellar, wine cellar, cheese cave, and storage spot for all the canned goods from the garden and two freezers full of frozen meats and vegetables. It’s definitely an important part of our house – but it didn’t look like it.

I decided EVERYTHING needed to come out of the basement so we could really deep clean it, and then paint it. It looks so much brighter and I’ve reclaimed corners of the basement that I confess – I was a bit scared of what might be lurking in the shadows. Then we painted the floor with gray garage floor paint to keep the dust down.

And then we pulled out the shop vac. In the four weeks since we’ve painted the basement, we’ve sucked flood waters out of it three times. A gentle soaking rain is no problem – but an inch and a half in twenty minutes is more than the basement can manage. At least it sucks up easily off of the new painted floor, except for the few places where the rain has loosened the paint.

Hopefully we are now out of the rainy season (until next year) but I sure wish those people that built this house back in 1853 had thought to put in a French drain with a sump pump – or at least a hole for a sump pump so that when electricity and such mechanical devices were invented, we could have just plugged one in.

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Old stone walls.
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Dirty dusty corners.
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It looks so much brighter with a fresh coat of paint.
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And a gray painted floor to keep the dust down.
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A perfect spot for a wine cellar and cheese cave.
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And so much brighter for storing my canned goods, squash and potatoes!

August – Beams

At the end of every day when I finally curl up on the couch to watch a few minutes of TV before I fall asleep, my eyesight is always drawn to the eyesore on the ceiling. We have a bit of a vaulted ceiling and over time, it has cracked where the drywall seam is. It’s a normal thing that happens but it looks ugly.

Now when I climb on the couch, I have a new view. We’ve had box-beams installed to cover the seams. It looks amazing. They are stained dark to match the beams in the kitchen and give a natural flow from one room to the next. I think it gives the room a more complete look and maybe even makes it feel cozy – not that we need cozy as it hits 100 degrees outside – but this winter, I’ll appreciate cozy even more.

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First a board got attached to the ceiling that covered the crack in the dry wall.
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Then it got covered in a box-beam.
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What a difference it makes, and the beams look like a continuation of the beams in the kitchen.

March – Warmer – Inside and Out

Maybe we’ve finally turned the corner and spring will “March” in this April. The grass is greening, the daffodils have buds and the days are ever so slightly warmer.

But it’s what inside that is keeping us warm! We finally found a solution to our living room fireplace. From the beginning, it has been a struggle. It is on a north-facing wall against a steep outside slope, so getting a proper draft going always meant using a hair-dryer to blow hot air up the chimney, followed by bouts of smoke filling the room, opening multiple doors and “fanning” them to circulate the air, dissipate the smoke, and coax the fire to draft properly.  The fireplace has a shallow fire box, and a very tight throat. I didn’t know fireplaces have throats, but apparently, ours is a problem. And if all of that wasn’t enough of a problem, we couldn’t close the damper at night until the fire was completely out – so any heat we did have, went straight up the tight throat of the chimney.  We looked into getting a fireplace insert about a year ago, but nothing would fit in our tiny space.

Finally – we found a very cute (and very small) Vermont Castings wood stove that fits just right – it is the Goldilocks of wood stoves.  Even better – it was last years model, end of season and on sale! After two days of four guys trying to figure out how to install this – we could start fires to “season” the stove. We could only burn a small fire and let it go completely out – repeat three times – before really firing it up. We are now in the firing it up stage, and the temperature in the family room has sky-rocketed from 66 to 76! I might have to give up my flannel pajamas and fuzzy blanket.

I can hardly wait for next fall so we can stay warm all winter long! And guess what Chris is doing today? Chopping wood!

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A fire in the fireplace — it looks pretty, but it wasn’t very warm.

 

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It’s a tiny thing, but fits perfectly – not sure how Santa will get down this chimney though.
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What a nice fire! And finally, a really warm family room!
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Time to chop more firewood!

February – Throwing off the Blanket

We are finally starting to show some signs of warmth around here. The snow is melting, temperatures are flirting with the 40’s some days, and it’s almost time to start my garden!

The blanket of snow on the greenhouse roof was headed south, so I started seeds. It’s  too cold in the greenhouse to give them a good start, so this year we are starting them on a germinating mat under a grow light in the basement. Things are starting to pop already.  By the time they are ready to transplant to larger pots and harden off under some real sunlight – the greenhouse will have warmed up – I hope!

Another sure sign of spring are the blue hoses attached to two of our maple trees. They aren’t sugar maples, but they are maples – so that’s close enough. Last year we started too late and got about one cup of maple syrup by the time we boiled down all the sap. This year I may have jumped the gun, but so far I have three gallons of sap – and the whole month of March ahead of me. Maybe this year we’ll get two cups!

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The blanket of snow is on the move – spring must be on the way.
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If you look REALLY close, you can see some sprouts – spring MUST be almost here.
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How much maple syrup will we get this year?